Nu? What's New?
The E-zine of Jewish Genealogy From Avotaynu

Gary Mokotoff, Editor

Volume 20, Number 18 | May 5, 2019

Every government puts value on preserving its history. That is why we have national archives. Genealogy preserves history; the history of a family. It cannot be done without access to records, just as historians cannot preserve a nation's history without access to records. It is a greater good than the right to privacy. It is a greater good than the risk of identity theft.

Past issues of Nu? What's New? are archived at
Underlined words are links to sites with additional information.

Ancestry Receives Some Bad Publicity After Changing Their DNA Ethnicity Estimates
Let no good deed go unpunished. Ancestry recently improved mtheir algorithm for determining a person’s ethnicity based on autosomal DNA testing. The result was some bad publicity that even made the national TV news. The reason is that some customers found their ethnicity significantly changed based on the new rules which Ancestry states are more accurate. One person complained, “Nigeria top first now Cameroon is top. What will I be next?” It happened to me on a previous Ancestry upgrade. I went from 93% Ashkenazic Jewish to 99% Ashkenazic Jewish dropping some ethnicities that did not make sense.

Ancestry notes that, “It is important to keep in mind that your DNA doesn’t change, but the science and technology behind understanding it constantly evolves and we endeavor to ensure that this cutting-edge science is reflected in our offerings.”
A description of the controversy can be found at Ancestry has responded with an article titled “Understanding Your New Ethnicity Estimate” at

New York State Challenging Reclaim The Records Win
Goliath is finding David to be irksome. Reclaim The Records (RTR) recently won a law suit against the New York State Department of Health (DOH) to gain a copy of the post-1965 State marriage index. It was based on the State’s Freedom of Information Law. DOH is fighting back by appealing the ruling. RTR is cross-appealing for attorney’s fees, which were denied in the original ruling.

RTR has been successful in getting a number of vital records indices based on the various U.S. state freedom of information laws. Once the data is acquired, it is placed on the internet at no charge. A complete list of pending requests can be found at

A more detailed description of the current action can be found at the RTR Facebook website:

Wyoming Vital Records Indexes. Although not formally announced by RTR, the organization has been successful in acquiring Wyoming marriage, divorce, and death indexes spanning the years 1908–1966. This database was shared with FamilySearch who now has it online at

Conference Hotel Fully Booked
Rooms at the Hilton Cleveland Downtown Hotel, site of this year’s IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy, are fully booked. The conference planners have made available rooms at the Cleveland Marriott Downtown at Key Center, located just one block from the Hilton. Reservations can be made directly with the Marriott. Request the special “IAJGS” rate of $184 per night. The conference webiste is at

Cook County (Chicago) Removes Records Searching from Website
You can no longer search the Cook County Illinois vital records site for birth, marriage and death records. Instead the site has an application form to request the record and prepay a fee. For a birth record, you need only provide a name and a year of birth. Other information may assist in identifying the individual. There is no indication whether the fee is returned if a record is not found.

One genealogist commented, “Many of us just liked to search the former site for our surname or the surnames we are researching just to get a feeling of what all exists. Then with some background information we might have, we then could make an educated guess that person “X” is maybe our ancestor and that we are willing to then submit a request to them with payment to get a copy of the vital record back to us.”

The county website is at Additional information about the action can be found at

JewishGen Class: Writing Short Reports
JewishGen will once again offer its class in publishing your research from May 10–31. In this class students will practice writing three styles of reports:
   • Data Report in list style;
   • Lineage Report combining genealogical software with a word processing program;
   • Narrative Genealogical Summary Report with citation and media appendices.

The instructor will offer directions for using your genealogical software publishing features, organizing files and folders, citing sources and making decisions about media snips and images. Students should have access to a genealogical software program and be comfortable with computers.

Tuition is $150 for the three-week class and includes editing suggestions upon request. Enrollment is limited to 10 students.

Additional information, including how to register, can be found at

Latest DNA Testing Prices
Mother’s Day pricing for autosomal DNA testing are:

23andme. $99. There is a $30 discount on their Health & Ancestry package.
Ancestry. $59. Offer ends May 13.
Family Tree DNA. $79.
MyHeritage. $69. Sales ends May 13.

FindMyPast to Implement Tree Matching
Starting July 1, FindMyPast plans to implement tree matching for those trees located at their site. It will include the customary opt-out option and privacy for living members on the tree. A version of the announcement can be found at findmypast-says-get-ready-for-ancestor.htm.

FamilySearch Adds More Than 1 Million Records This Week
A list of recent additions to FamilySearch, more than 1 million indexed records, can be found at This site provides direct links to the individual collections. Those identified with a dagger (†) are Christian-only records. They include records from Colombia(†), France, Italy, New Zealand, Peru, and the United States, including Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Michigan, Missouri, North Carolina, Utah, Virginia, and Wyoming.

Note that at the website, announced collections may not be complete for the dates specified and will be added at some later date. Also note that counts shown in the announcement are the number added, not the total number available in the collection, which can be greater.

Updated Collections at
Ancestry has updated the following record groups at their site. The list with links to individual collections can be found at–collections. Announced collections may not be complete for the dates specified and will be added at some later date.
   • UK, Selected Records Relating to Kindertransport, 1938–1939 (USHMM)
   • U.S., Presbyterian Church Records, 1701–1970
   • Nayarit, Mexico, Civil Registration Marriages, 1868–1959
   • Nayarit, Mexico, Civil Registration Births, 1868–1934
   • Nayarit, Mexico, Civil Registration Deaths, 1868–2001

Do You Subcribe to AVOTAYNU?
Each year AVOTAYNU publishes more than 300 pages of useful, interesting information about Jewish family history research that can help you in your research. Now in its 33rd year, an index to the first 24 volumes is available to all the major articles.

Published quarterly, our contributing editors from 15 countries throughout the world regularly gather important information that appears in our issues. Our publishers, Gary Mokotoff and Sallyann Amdur Sack, are on a first name basis with officials at institutions containing genealogical data throughout the world. 
Some institutions are U.S. National Archives, U.S. Library of Congress, U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, Leo Baeck Institute,  Yad Vashem and  Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People.

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